Spring Crew closes out a strong season

The Varsity Quad, Jackson Harrington ’24, Noah Kanefsky ’25, Joseph Herd ’24, and Ben Erskine ’25- Pierce Laveran ’24

For the athletes on the crew team, the last two regattas of the season are among the most competitive. The Stotesbury Cup and Scholastic Rowing Association of America Nationals bring the best of the country together to compete for a national title. 

The Stotesbury Cup Regatta, nicknamed “Stotes,” dates back to 1927. Haverford has a storied history at Stotesbury. In the late fifties through the nineties, Haverford dominated the regatta, even winning the Varsity Quad event for eleven straight years under Coach Jim Barker. 

For the Fords today, it represents a challenge, but also a chance to prove themselves as the best in the nation and in Haverford rowing history.

“No matter how good you are, Stotes is scary. It’s the biggest scholastic regatta and competition comes from all over the U.S. and Canada just for a chance of reaching the finals,” Sixth Former Evan Wang said. 

Held annually on Schuylkill River, the competition attracts hundreds of teams and around 5000 athletes from across the country. Winning an event requires iron-hard discipline and dedication to the sport and one’s teammates, at practice and at the race course. 

“Every day, as soon as the boat hits the water, the next two hours require mental and physical resilience,” Fifth Former William Walker said. “It’s all for one goal, which is to bring home a medal for your boat.” 

High school crew teams can travel thousands of miles and row tens of thousands of meters, only to be eliminated after one race. Rowers leave everything they have on the water.

“[After Cities], every practice was done with the purpose of pushing ourselves beyond what a race would. If we weren’t gasping for air after a piece, we knew we needed to push ourselves even further in the next one regardless of how fast we already were going,” Wang said. 

Fourth Former Ben Erskine agrees. 

“Over this year we’ve had challenges with many things like blisters, many bad strokes, and being tired.”

The Varsity Quad, Jackson Harrington ’24, Noah Kanefsky ’25, Joseph Herd ’24, and Ben Erskine ’25 – Pierce Laveran ’24

The team’s hard work and dedication paid off. Fourth Formers Ben Erskine, Noah Kanefsky, and Fifth Formers Joseph Herd, and Jackson Harrington won the Varsity Quad, bringing the Sonzogni Trophy back to Haverford and Fifth Former Ethan Lee and Sixth Former Evan Wang won the Varsity Lightweight Double for the first time in Haverford Crew history, bringing the Jim Barker trophy home and securing their place in high school rowing history.

“Winning Stotes was such an amazing feeling after our final was a little closer than we had expected,” Herd said. 

Head Coach Jonathan Stephanik attributes the success at the regatta to the team’s motivation and camaraderie. “I think the three most important things that lead to success this season were hard work, willingness to improve, and doing their best to support one another in a boat and during practices,” Mr. Stephanik said. “As lineups started gaining confidence and boats got faster, the team started feeling the reward of their hard work.”

Just a few days later, the Varsity Quad, Varsity Lightweight Double, JV Four (Will Walker ’24, Michael Bartholdson ’25, Anders Bartholdson ’24, Patrick Cohen ’25), and JV Double (Charlie Gord ’25, Ryan Brewington ’24) packed their bags and headed off to Tennessee, where they raced in the SRAA Regatta for the national title. The JV Four and JV Double were hungry for revenge after missing the podium at Stotesbury and the Varsity Quad and Varsity Lightweight Double were just a regatta away from sweeping all three “playoff” regattas. For them, this was all the motivation they needed.

“We knew the competition and we knew we wanted to complete the sweep of winning Cities, Stotes, and SRAAs,” Wang said. 

Winning all three is a rare occurrence. However, the Varsity Quad and Varsity Lightweight Double overcame the competition, taking gold in both their semi and grand finals, and the JV Four edged out their competitors to win a bronze medal. 

For the Varsity Quad, it was a culmination of their hard work. 

“Winning nationals felt amazing for our quad, seeing all of the work we put in come to life was truly an out-of-body experience,” Kanefsky said. “We had faced most of the teams before and it was just a final chance to prove ourselves at a national level.”

The team’s many successes did not come easily. The team had to overcome many obstacles.

“One of the largest challenges the team faced was that the team is mostly sophomores and juniors, which forced underclassmen to step up into seats in varsity boats with expectations to win,” Fourth Former Michael Bartholdson said. 

“Understanding strength is great, but it must be applied correctly in the boat.”

Mr. John Suter

In addition, finding the right lineups on the water is a time consuming task that requires methodical planning from the coaches and humility from the rowers.

“Athletes need a willingness to learn and grow,” said Assistant Coach and middle school history teacher  Mr. John Suter. “Understanding strength is great, but it must be applied correctly in the boat.”

Mr. Stephanik stresses the importance of team camaraderie to success on the river. 

“As guys started to have more trust for the coaching and changes [and in each other] the boats started to gel,” Mr. Stephanik said. “I think this is what led to our four wins and three third place finishes at our League Championship.” 

Wang and Lee both underwent the mentally and physically draining process of adapting to each other in the double. 

“It was pretty frustrating, and I think everyone watching and involved knew that. But about two weeks before Cities was when Ethan and I really locked in and found our rhythm,” Wang said. 

The boat found obvious success, attesting to the athletes’ ability to work together, solve problems, and dedication.

“Ethan and Evan were never complacent. The double did not lose a race for over a month [roughly eight races]. This type of success can often lead to complacency and a dip in performance. However, the guys stayed focused and as a result continued to separate themselves from their competition each time they hit the water,” Assistant Coach Mr. Robert Moore said. 

The Varsity Quad at the end of a March 26 Manny Flick – Communications

Members of the Varsity Quad believe that their willingness to learn and grow is also what brought them success. 

“We faced challenges with line-up changes early in the season along with some incorrect rigging. Once placed in our final lineup, we were undefeated,” Fifth Former Jackson Harrington said. 

To Harrington, winning SRAAs is more than a trophy and medal. 

“Winning our championship obviously means a lot, especially being able to carry the legacy of our seniors who won the quad last year,” Harrington said.

The team’s victories set an even higher bar than last year. Kanefsky hopes to continue the momentum.

“Winning was a great way to wrap up our season and give us momentum moving into next season,” Kanefsky said.  “We’re going to compete and hopefully win at even larger regattas like Head of the Charles, Youth Nats, and hopefully Henley in England.”

For Herd, he is more motivated than ever to keep the win streak going.

“We all have high expectations for our next seasons in the fall and spring and have the drive and determination to keep our winning streak alive.”